WASHINGTON (AFP) – United States (US) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders voiced shock and horror yesterday at new evidence of atrocities against civilians in Ukraine, and warned that Russian troop movements away from Kyiv did not signal a withdrawal or end to the violence.
Evidence of possible civilian killings around Kyiv has emerged as the Russian army has pulled back from the capital in the face of ferocious resistance from Ukrainian forces.
AFP reporters saw at least 20 bodies, all in civilian clothing, strewn across a single street in the town of Bucha on Friday. One had his hands tied behind his back with a white cloth, and his Ukrainian passport left open beside his body.
Bucha’s mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said 280 other bodies had been buried in mass graves in the town.
“You can’t help but see these images as a punch to the gut,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN a day after horrific footage from Bucha, recently retaken from Russian forces, was widely aired.
But, he said, such killings were “the reality of what’s going on every single day” that Russia remains in Ukraine.
He reaffirmed that the US was helping to document possible war crimes, but did not say whether he considered them to be crimes against humanity or acts of genocide.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the killings of civilians in Bucha were “horrific and absolutely unacceptable”.
Stoltenberg also said he was not “too optimistic” about Russia’s claim to be pulling troops away from Kyiv.
“What we see is not a withdrawal, but we see that Russia is repositioning its troops,” he told CNN, warning of the potential of increased attacks. Blinken echoed that warning in an interview on MSNBC yesterday, saying that Moscow still has “the ability to wreak massive death and destruction, including in places like Kyiv, with air power and missiles”.
But he also noted that the shift appears to be “evidence that Russia’s original plans to take over the whole country, including Kyiv, have been dealt a devastating setback”.
“Russia had three goals going into this: To subjugate Ukraine to its will, to deny its sovereignty and its independence, to assert Russian power, and to divide the West, divide the alliance. And on all three fronts, it’s failed,” Blinken said.